Issue of December 4, 2016
Mt. Province

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Who would have thought that a seemingly innocuous request to conduct a ‘bazaar’ to raise funds for the hosting of a Miss Universe  event in Baguio would reach the courts and has put city officials and its partners on the defense?

Following the approval for the conduct of a Christmas ‘bazaar’ as coined by the Hotels and Restaurants of Baguio, which is interpreted by many as a ‘trade fair,’ the former and city officials are now embroiled in a court case – accused of violating the same law that they enacted and are bound to uphold – the Trade Fair Ordinance.

This, as the chosen site for the bazaar, which is the Melvin Jones football fields, a prime location right at the heart of Baguio, would also set a precedent and a potential cause of a possible legal concern in the future.

Allegations surfaced that HRAB was given preferential treatment when city officials gave it the go-signal to proceed with the activity despite possible violation of the ordinance as clearly shown in the transcript of proceedings during the Nov. 21 session of the city council. Baguio’s global promotion as a destination and the local government’s assistance to the HRAB in hosting ancillary events of the 2017 Ms. Universe were the reasons cited why they allowed the conduct of a bazaar/trade fair.

We believe both parties mean well in their effort of promoting the country’s summer capital on a global scale. But this should not exempt them from complying with ordinances.

The parties claim the bazaar is an exceptional case because hosting the Ms. Universe is a once-in-a-lifetime event. But as far as we know, the ordinance does not contain a provision that relaxes the rules when there is a once-in-a-lifetime event such as the international pageant.

The mayor and the HRAB may argue that the activity is not a trade fair, only a plain and simple fundraising event. But there are other ordinances, which require that any fundraising event must follow certain guidelines such as submission of a project proposal, details of beneficiaries, and so forth. None of these have been imposed by the city council to the HRAB prior to asking for an endorsement. Its compliance as a matter of fact will be done, after obtaining the approval of the city officials. That’s putting the cart before the horse.

For one official to suggest that their approval of a bazaar for HRAB should not become a precedent for other trade fair organizers to ask for the same treatment in the future does not hold water. This line of reasoning all the more highlighted the special treatment extended to a group. This is why several businessmen especially vendors at the market are crying foul.

For more than a decade, the public knows HRAB as an esteemed institution with high sense of value for order and beauty. The manner by which the tents for the bazaar were set up does not speak well of the HRAB’s reputation.

The reality is that HRAB ate more than it could chew and the Baguio LGU has been placed in a situation where it could no longer say no because its reputation is at stake – never mind if the group never informed the LGU when they were negotiating with the organizers of the Ms. Universe.

While the issue is now being heard in court and contentions raised by lawyers could not be discussed here, we hope that both parties realize that citizens of Baguio are vigilant, discerning and deserve the highest ethical standards from them.

The city government will not spend a single centavo from its coffers but this does not excuse city officials from any responsibility because in the conduct of such activity, everybody remains to be governed by laws that they, as public officials are morally bound to follow. Their explanations on this particular issue certainly do not justify the means by which it was done.



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